Jan 112010
 

by Eric M. Pazdziora

Many different people believe that if you are a Christian you will go to heaven… If this is so, that means that Fred Phelps will go to heaven. When you consider that non-Christians don't, that would mean that Phelps would go but not Princess Di and M. Gandhi. Is this fair?

–J. M., on a message board on Facebook

(The scene is congruent to a completely irrelevant small town somewhere in the heartland of whatever country we were talking about.  Our protagonist, Mr. Smith, has just met a most unfortunate fate involving a truck, a moped, and a gross miscalculation of the laws of physics.  Mr. Smith follows a light to the end of a tunnel and is greeted by a man in fifteenth-century ecclesiastical garb.)

MR. SMITH: Whoa, what happened?

THE MAN:  Welcome to heaven, Mr. Smith!  My name is…

MR. SMITH: Wait, back up a second.  This is heaven?  You mean I died?

THE MAN:  Quite amusingly, in fact.  Everyone does sooner or later; sooner, if I have anything to do with it.  As for getting into heaven, though, that’s just for people like you and me.

MR. SMITH: I see.  What was your name again?

THE MAN:  Tomas de Torquemada, at your service.

MR. SMITH: Really?  The Tomas de Torquemada?  The Grand Inquisitor of Spain?

TORQUEMADA:  The same!

MR. SMITH:  Didn’t you spend your life organizing persecution of Jews and anyone who disagreed with you?

TORQUEMADA: (smiling) I see my good reputation precedes me.

MR. SMITH:  And you were responsible for the torture and death of hundreds of people on false charges?  Or for differences of opinion?  Or for political or material gain?

TORQUEMADA:  Aw shucks, you’re making me blush.

MR. SMITH: And didn’t I hear that you died of Syphilis?

TORQUEMADA:  Hey, let’s not get personal.

MR. SMITH: Well, if you don’t mind my saying so….   How did a person like you wind up in heaven?

TORQUEMADA: (greatly affronted) Why on earth would I not?  I’m a Christian, not like any of those heretic scum in hell.

[Long pause]

MR. SMITH:  So… You’re saying that as long as a person believes what you believe, they go to heaven?

TORQUEMADA:  Naturally.

MR. SMITH:  And it doesn’t matter how you live your life?

TORQUEMADA:  How else would I end up here?

MR. SMITH:  But everyone who disagrees with you…

TORQUEMADA:  …My old friend Mr. Lucifer has been putting my inventions to very good use in the other place.  Care to see the new ones I’ve been working on?

[Another long pause.]

MR. SMITH:  Is there anyone who can give me a second opinion on this place?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes!  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  (Matthew 7:21)

MR. SMITH:  I knew it!  Get me out of here into the heaven where it matters what you do!

(There is a thin scream from TORQUEMADA as the scene before MR. SMITH fades into a brilliant light.  A moment later, the scene readjusts itself to much the same as it was before, except another man is present in the place of the Inquisitor.)

THE MAN:  Welcome to heaven, Mr. Smith. I’m Dudley, pleased to meet you.

MR. SMITH:  Dudley?  I don’t believe I’ve heard of a Dudley.

DUDLEY: Oh come, surely you jest. “St. Dudley Do-Righter-Than-Thou,” that’s my name.  You must have heard of me down there.  Everyone has.

MR. SMITH:  I haven’t had the pleasure.

DUDLEY: (coldly) Well then.  Let’s have a look at your report card.

MR. SMITH:  My what?

DUDLEY: Your report card!  Everyone gets one when they die. Then if your good deeds outweigh your bad, you pass and you get into heaven.  If not, well, you know.

(MR. SMITH looks down and finds to his surprise that he is holding a small rectangular piece of white paper.)

MR. SMITH:  Well, I’ll be.

DUDLEY:  No, you were already.  Come on, let me see it!

(He snatches the report card from MR. SMITH and scans it intently.)

DUDLEY:  Ah.  You pass, but barely.  You only got a “Needs Improvement” in Church Attendance.  And very poor marks in Tithing.  And that’s a positively shameful showing in Deeds of Charity to the Deserving Poor!  Tut, tut, Smith.  What a pity.  If you hadn’t done so well on your Theology final, and managed to only get ten points off for an act of Petty Larceny, I doubt you’d have made it in here at all!

MR. SMITH: (trying madly to grab back his report card) I don’t think that’s any of your business!

DUDLEY: (ignoring him) Now I, on the other hand, was the founder and president of a charitable organization to help poor white children in the suburbs.  You should have seen what everyone up here said when I showed them my four major international awards for humanitarian work!  Why here, I just happen to have them with me…

MR. SMITH: Is there anyone who can give me a second opinion on this place?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes! “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

MR. SMITH:  I knew it! Get me out of here into the heaven where everybody gets in!

(There is a thin scream from DUDLEY as the scene before MR. SMITH fades once again into a brilliant light.  A moment later, the scene readjusts itself to much the same as it was before, except three men are standing in front of MR. SMITH.)

FIRST MAN: Welcome to heaven, Mr. Smith!  So good to see you here.  I’m Herr Hitler.

SECOND MAN:  Why hello there.  My name’s Nero.  Have you seen any good murders lately?

THIRD MAN:  James T. Ripper.  You can call me Jack.… I say, did somebody say murder?  Sounds lovely.

[Long Pause]

MR. SMITH: Do I even need to ask?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes!

MR. SMITH: All right, is there anyone who can give me a second opinion on this place?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes! “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  (1 Corinthians 6:9a)

(Three thin shrieks are heard as HITLER, NERO, and JACK THE RIPPER vanish in puffs of smoke.)

MR. SMITH: O.K., but doesn’t that just put us back in the last “heaven”?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: (continuing) “And such were some of you!”  (1 Corinthians 6:10a)

MR. SMITH: “Such”?  You mean… the unrighteous people who don’t make it into heaven?  You mean I’m like them?  Then… what am I doing in heaven?  But wait, did you say “were” in the past tense?

A LOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE FROM ABOVE: “…but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Corinthians 6:10b)

MR. SMITH: So… that’s what gets you into heaven?  Knowing that you don’t deserve it, but that Jesus can change that… can change you?

VOICE FROM ABOVE:  Can change you.  Are you ready?